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Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes

Confessions from the Classroom


Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

Have you ever been told that you’re too girlish or too boyish? We are all potential targets of the gender police, some more so than others. And how did you respond? Did you hide or change or rebel or hurt or gleefully celebrate your style? Tomboys and Other Gender Heroes is a study that brings together gender stories from approximately 600 children and youth. Set in both urban and rural contexts, these young people show how their schools and communities respond to their bodies, passions, and imaginations. As one 13-year-old student expresses, «My flowered jeans make me feel happy because they represent the sort of feminine side to me and at the same time show my masculine side. They also make me feel like I’m a part of a large force that stands up to bullying and criticism, to express themselves and to show the world that our lives have meaning.» In this book, student writings are framed by teaching strategies and gender theory, featuring themes of sports, film, media, landscape, joyfulness, and gender creativity. The research will be of great interest to university students in the fields of education, gender, sexuality and women’s studies, sociology, social work, psychology, counseling, and child development. This book is ideal for teachers, professors, parents, and community members who hope to create accepting environments for gender diversity.


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7. “I Will Whip My Hair” and “Hold My Bow”: Gender Creativity in Rural Ontario


· 7 · “i will whip my hair” and “hold my bow” Gender Creativity in Rural Ontario It is time to hear from the gender creative students of rural Ontario, those most affected by narrow thinking about gendered possibilities. Gender creative youth live in rural spaces, inhospitable or otherwise. They are experts in the cultural norms of their towns and in the potential consequences of gender transgressions. I will place their insights in conversation with the popular novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, because as I read the narrative, I found the knowl- edge closely aligned with the voices of the participants in my study. Brought together, I believe they offer parents, educators, and community members tools for supporting rural gender creative youth. In particular, I will (1) provide crit- ical understandings of the complexity of rural gender creativity, (2) suggest the importance of the use of The Hunger Games as a source of recognition and empowerment of rural gender creativity, and (3) advocate for a curriculum where youth are encouraged to speak, write, and create; they can’t depend on distorted rural representation, and they need to put their own lives on the map. Language and Identity In my interactions with students during this research, I found that terminology defining gender or sexuality could not be assumed. On only three occasions 104 tomboys and other gender heroes did students self-identify with the term bisexual, but this was the extent of any formal affiliation with the queer alphabet (LGBTTQI2S). One of these...

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